King Lear’s Self Discovery

1. Selfhood is a kind of individuality a person possesses, a distinct identity that reflects the quality of being egocentric or, on the contrary, aware of other people’s needs. Two outstanding works of the world literature, the tragedy King Lear by W. Shakespeare and A Man for All Seasons: A Play in Two Acts by R. Bolt give us an insight into the development of human character and selfhood. The titles of both dramatic works are suggestive: one of the protagonists is a king known by his name; the other is merely “a man”, although the characteristics “for all seasons” attributes him rare virtues. The former is a fictional character; the latter is a well-known historical figure. At the beginning of the narration, Lear is an assertive person who would not pay heed to anyone or anything contradicting his ideas of the regal status. Disinheriting his youngest daughter in his blind thirst for flattery and honey words, Lear would not listen to anyone, warning one of his true friends, “Come not between the dragon and his wrath” (Shakespeare, act I, scene I). The search for selfhood of this character is an evolution of a personality towards realizing the simple truth that no man, be he king or commoner, is immune to treachery, disloyalty or evil schemes. “Who alone suffers suffers most i’ the mind” (Shakespeare, act III, scene IV), and that is the retribution for pride, vanity, misjudgment, and rash actions.

For More, the protagonist of A Man for All Seasons, conscience and human virtues are basic values that determine human life; his faith in God is his strength that never lets him deviate from what is true and good. In one of his many discussions with Cromwell, More asserts that “in matters of conscience, the loyal subject is more bounden to be loyal to his conscience than to any other thing” (Bolt, 1990, p. 153). Therefore, in contrast to Lear who reclaimed his selfhood through the suffering of his own and his loved ones, More held true to his values and faith and met his death a much happier man, despite the fact of dying on the block.

2. Blindness is a misfortune greatly feared by many people; we usually have a heartfelt sympathy for those who are affected by it. Physical blindness, however, is more apparent than moral or spiritual blindness of people who have eye-sight but lack sound judgment. Their actions and decisions prompted by this kind of blindness often have tragic outcomes, both for them and other people involved. An in-depth study of moral blindness is presented in two outstanding tragedies, Oedipus the King by Sophocles and King Lear by W. Shakespeare. In both works, the protagonists are powerful rulers and kings of their lands. The Greek ruler refers to himself as “I Oedipus, your world-renowned king” (Sophocles, line 8). For King Lear, it is enough to have a “fast intent” of relieving himself of royal responsibilities to divide his kingdom in three. Both rulers …
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